I have a grand aversion to laptop trackpads. Also known as touchpads. Observing how other people use trackpads indicates to me that the devices are not a great invention. People use them, people tolerate them, but I notice few people master trackpads and most people’s productivity slows when using a trackpad rather than using a mouse.

More than a few people have been irritated while typing by the sensitivity of trackpads when bumping or brushing the heel of the hand palm against the trackpad. One solution is to use the keyboard with some kind of exaggerated concert pianist posture. Welcome carpal tunnel syndrome. Some desktop designers try to provide a remedy of controlling sensitivity, which to me is licking scabs rather than dealing with the disease.

Trackpads are proverbial “elephants in the room.” In modern day lingo, trackpads suck.

I use a Thinkpad T400. A decent laptop. Being a laptop, there is an elephant, er, trackpad.

I rarely use the laptop trackpad. Rarely, as in, almost never. Some people find my behavior peculiar, but I also don’t jump off cliffs with lemmings.

Instead I use a small Verbatim optical mouse. People with large hands likely will find this particular mouse awkward, but I have average hands and slender fingers.

The small footprint of the mouse allows me to use the mouse on the wide arm rest of the living room easy chair. Nice. Of course, on tables too.

When using the T400 away from home, I find a flat surface to use the mouse rather than the trackpad. Along with the laptop, I dump the mouse pad and mouse into the laptop travel bag when taking the laptop with me.

To support my eccentric behavior, I disable the trackpad altogether.

First, I got tired of bumping my thumbs against that silly red pencil eraser head thingie. Yeah, I know, that red thingie is a huge Thinkpad selling point and is even part of the Thinkpad logo. I disabled the thingie in the BIOS and then pulled and threw the red thingie into a computer junk box. No more bumping problems. While the red thingie was disabled and did not affect the mouse pointer, the continual bumping disrupted my typing, which disrupted my thinking, which disrupted my productivity. I am not a Type A person, but when I want to focus I want to do just that. This is four letter word territory.

Second, some desktop designers provide a feature to disable the trackpad. A nice pointy-clicky check box. I prefer an 800 pound gorilla to disable the trackpad. I run a script called trackpad-disable. I use the trackpad-disable script to help me avoid using favorite four letter words. I invoke the script when starting the desktop.

Third, living in the real world, I anticipate possible emergencies where using the trackpad might be required or when others use the laptop. Therefore I leave the default MATE desktop trackpad option enabled. The trackpad-disable script overrides the desktop option.

For those rare trackpad usage occasions, I use Fn+F11 to toggle the trackpad, which is mapped to a trackpad-toggle script. Using this keyboard toggle requires keeping the desktop option enabled.

The two scripts can be used in a terminal, but normally are used programmatically.

To enable the keyboard shortcut, I defined an ACPI event named /etc/acpi/events/trackpad-toggle:

    # Fn+F11
    event=button/fnf11 FF11 00000080 00000000 K

To discover the event button code I used the acpi_listen command.

The/etc/acpi/ script:


While I prefer to completely disable the trackpad, this approach should help users who need to temporarily disable the trackpad, such as when first starting the desktop environment, or when wanting to emulate Ernest Hemingway on a Remington. The trackpad-disable script would be launched when starting X. When wanting to use the trackpad, the user would press Fn+F11. When wanting to focus on typing and avoid those favorite four letter words, again press Fn+F11 and start typing.

A built-in trackball type mouse would be a huge improvement over trackpads.

Posted: Category: Tutorial Tagged: General

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